By Tate Luckey and Anthony Riley

The weekend has come and gone, and with it, another Bourbon and Beyond. The festival returned for its sixth year, headlined by special guests like superstar Bruno Mars, country rock artist Brandi Carlile, and even “retro” artists like Duran Duran and Blondie.

Vivi Rincon

Up-and-comer Vivi Rincon was one of the first to perform at the festival earlier on Thursday. The Houston native found her time at Berklee College of Music to be inspirational for her budding career, describing the environment and her peers as extremely supportive. Her time at Bourbon and Beyond was sponsored in part due to Berklee’s one-year-long Berklee Popular Music Institute (BPMI) Live program, which helps bring students to the live stage.

Her current plans post-college include moving to Los Angeles where she plans to work with other producers to cultivate a sound that is, in her eyes, authentic. After releasing her single “if we lived on the moon” and subsequent EP “crash landing” earlier this year, Rincon soon found herself in a major viral moment TikTok.

“[TikTok] gives artists a chance to control their career — you promote yourself, you decide what you want to post. It’s liberating but also frustrating. Sometimes you post something and it doesn’t get many views, so I have to make sure that doesn’t impact my self-worth,” she detailed. All in all, she considers a platform a positive.

“It was my first time performing at a festival. It was literally a dream. The crowd was awesome, my family was right there… it was sweet,” she said.

One year of 1 Million Strong — Providing a sober space amongst the spirit

Anyone who wasn’t feeling the thunderous bass from Hozier or highball cocktails at the surrounding stage areas could take a break to relax at the 1 Million Strong tent in the middle of the grounds. The tent serves as a supportive place for a break from the hectic energy of the festival. Tentgoers can purchase a variety of mocktails, including some tangy hibiscus lemonade and a crisp, fizzy kombucha.

Powered by The Phoenix, 1 Million Strong seeks to reshape the way individuals talk about sobriety within the context of the music industry. 46.3 million individuals struggle with some form of substance use, including 57% of music industry professionals.

“We call ourselves allies, right? Everyone’s recovery is different, so it’s an understanding that what’s helpful to your friend might not be helpful to other people. I think it’s about making the conversation easier to have, being open and honest, saying ‘Hey if you need to leave or take a moment, I’m here for you.’,” spokesperson Kelsey Stalnaker said.

It may seem rather ironic to provide a sober space at a festival that’s all things bourbon, but the reactions have been nothing but positive. Individuals ranging from 18 days to 21 years sober at the festival said they felt encouraged to have a venue where they could enjoy the music without alcohol presence.

Going beyond the bourbon

Yale student Elise Williamson had been there all weekend, saving up for what she referred to as “her special senior year trip”. She and others around her sang along to every word of her favorite artist of the weekend, Brandi Carlile. Her mom Lorie — coming only on Sunday — explained that the appeal was to see a motley of musicians that she wouldn’t normally see in concert.

“I normally wouldn’t go and pay to see just one of [the artists], so it’s nice to check them off all at once,” she said.

Guests of all ages rotated throughout the festival stopping to try one of the 26 types of bourbon brands offered, watch cooking demonstrations, and even get a psychic reading. The gallery below features some of our favorite sights.

Louder Than Life, another Danny Wimmer Presents event, kicks off this weekend at the Expo Center. Early Bird Passes for Bourbon and Beyond in 2024 go on sale on their website on Sept. 22nd.

Photo Courtesy // Nathan Zucker, Steve Thrasher; Tate Luckey and Anthony Riley (The Louisville Cardinal)